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Cold Weather and Fostbite in Your Pets – What Should You Watch For?

Robbie borrows my scarf when it’s cold. Image: Terry Morgan/

It was cold over the weekend in the Magic Valley. Really cold. The last time I checked the temperature Saturday night it was close to zero and the wind chill made it feel like -18.

I have two dogs and a cat and I’m worried about frostbite. What are the symptoms we should be watching for?

What Is Frostbite?

First, what is Frostbite? “Frostbite” refers to the damage of body tissue that has been exposed to freezing temperatures. Depending on the temperature, Frostbite can set in as quickly as 5 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. The National Weather Service has created this chart to show temperature versus exposure time.


It can sometimes take several days before you see any signs of frostbite. It’s important to keep an eye out for any detectable pain in your pet, discoloration, swelling, blistering, or peeling of the skin on the feet, tail, and ears. If any of these signs are present, you should contact your veterinarian for treatment.

Redness following rewarming is normal, but if the areas become darker, you should contact your vet immediately.


Be sure to never leave your pet unattended for long periods of time, especially when outdoors in the cold. Pets are friends not lawn ornaments to be chained up.

As much as we take precautions in bundling ourselves and our kids up to face the freezing temperatures of winter, we should take the same care for our pets. Don’t leave them outside in the cold for extended periods and check your pets for any signs of Frostbite. Your pets will thank you.

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